Thursday, 26 July 2007

The Temptation of Disunity

The Mount of Temptations is now home to a beautiful monastery, set into the side of the mountain and overlooking the town of Jericho. It's remote - only reachable via cable car and a steep walk - but presumably that was the point Jesus wanted to make when he went into the wilderness!

The monastery was another example of how religious differences and conflict have taken over these 'holy' sites. The stern American, orthodox monk didn't seem to happy for us to be there. As an ecumenical group containing Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians and others - but no Orthodox - we were essentially 'non-Christian' in his eyes.

I could take the obligatory wearing of long trousers, and covering up my arms (despite Jericho's 45c heatwave!) but when he informed us that we could not pray in the cave where Jesus was tempted, well.... How can you tell people NOT to pray?! It's beyond comprehension. Of course I did it anyway (silently) as I presume most of the group did. Admittedly, it's not as if that cave is likely to be the cave, but still, that's not the point!

There is a desperate need for ecumenism in this place. Where there is already so much division - especially in the division of Jerusalem between Jew, Muslim and Christian - why seek to create more by dividing a faith into its various guises? This is why organisations like Sabeel are so important, because they bring people together, ignoring or overcoming divisive issues, in order to fight for far more important causes like justice.

During our brief devotions after leaving the monastery (the monk wouldn't even read the Bible passage on the temptations for us, so we left), we each took a stone from the path and focused the temptations that face us upon it. Then we hurled them over the edge of the cliff into obscurity. That's where the temptation to divide should go.

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